by Max Hooley
I'll never forget my afternoon visit to Grantham in 1959, unfortunately it turned out to be my one and only trip!
To give you some background I was born in Long Eaton and we lived in a house alongside the Erewash Valley line. I could catch the engines' numbers from my own bedroom window, which proved a huge advantage over my spotter friends. My spare time would be spent sitting on the footbridge at the local Long Eaton station (closed 1967/68), or down the line to Trent Station (also closed 1967/68), waiting in particular for the Down 'Thames Clyde Express' at around 12.30pm and then the Up return at about 4.30pm. In between times there were many freight trains passing through taking coal to the power stations and then the return empties. These were usually hauled by Class 8F 2-8-0s and Class 9F 2-10-0s.
Looking back, I think my very first sighting of an ex-LNER locomotive would have been at what was and still is the Victoria Embankment in Nottingham. I remember that I was watching my father playing cricket and the pitch was fairly close to the ex-Great Central line which crossed the River Trent just there. That event stirred up my enthusiasm for Eastern Region classes and led me to ask my father to take me to Nottingham Victoria Station. Again my visit, aged just 8 in 1959, proved to be a solitary outing and unfortunately it was not repeated.
That trip to Nottingham Victoria made me very eager to see more Eastern Region locomotives, but perhaps moving at a more exciting speed. My father had a work colleague whose son David was interested in trains too, so the main line at Grantham was very much in all of our minds. At this time not many people owned a car, but luckily David's father did. Not having one ourselves we had traditionally always travelled everywhere by bus or train. Eventually a trip was arranged for Saturday 26th September 1959 and we were treated to a pleasant road journey along what was in those days a relatively quiet A52 (actually I would have loved to have gone by train from Nottingham Victoria, but it wasn't to be!). We arrived in Grantham at I guess sometime around 2.00pm and from memory probably left about 5.00pm?
I remember David's father parking the car and then obtaining platform tickets for us all. What followed was a very exhilarating afternoon watching the passing traffic, collecting the numbers, and also taking the occasional photograph with my trusted Brownie 127.
Although I have not kept my original spotter's notebook, I have a note of the locomotives I definitely saw that day:
A4 No 60006 'Sir Ralph Wedgwood', A4 No 60026 'Miles Beevor', A3 No 60062 'Minoru', A3 No 60108 'Gay Crusader', A1 No 60113 'Great Northern', V2 No 60854, V2 No 60966, Britannia No 70001 'Lord Hurcomb' in shiny Brunswick green, looking like it was straight out of the cleaners, and the prototype Deltic (still on trial). There were of course others in the three or so hours spent there. The highlight for me was seeing the Up Flying Scotsman dash through the station pulled by A4 60006 'Sir Ralph Wedgwood'. Another fantastic memory was standing by the side of A4 No 60026 'Miles Beevor'. This was actually only the second A4 I had seen (the first was No 60025 'Falcon' on a trip to Bridlington earlier in the year). The 'Deltic' diesel on a stopping train caused some excitement amongst the boys. I had my photograph taken standing alongside the driving wheels of A1 No 60113 'Great Northern'. Thankfully I was able to catch some of these locos on my camera and I still have those photos today. A super afternoon where every engine was a cop. Didn't we all just love days like that!
Below you will find some of the photographs that I took that afternoon. The first one shows A4 No 60026 'Miles Beevor' on a stopping train heading south, whilst A4 No 60006 'Sir Ralph Wedgwood' was hurtling through with the Up Flying Scotsman destined for King's Cross. Apologies for the quality, but as an 8-year-old, such was my excitement and inexperience at taking photographs, that I pressed the button too soon for 60026! However, the second one, showing A4 No 60006 just about to make an appearance on the left of the photograph, did turn out to be a cracking shot of the train spotters waiting in anticipation of the engine's arrival, all with notebooks and pencils at the ready.
So the afternoon moved on and all too soon my visit to Grantham station sadly came to an end. Years later, around 1994, I did pass through the station on board a train from Retford to King's Cross; my only other visit to the town would have been around 1964/65 to watch Grantham Town vs Long Eaton Utd.
Away from Grantham, when I was about 10 to 13 years old, I would make regular trips to Newark. This was easy for me as (unlike going to Grantham) Trent station to Newark Castle station did not involve changing trains. With Newark Northgate station then being a relatively short walk, these visits kept up my desire to see more of the Eastern Region Pacifics on the main line.
Before I sign off, I must say how enjoyable it has been for me to write down my memories and have them in print, so I hope you have enjoyed reading them. I cannot believe they are so long ago. I have recently just turned 70 and where oh where have those years gone!
Max Hooley 2022.
If you have your own memories of visiting Grantham and would like to see them recorded on this website, then please do get in touch with us.